Lauren Marks: 2021 candidate for Libertyville District 70 School Board
Two candidates for one two-year term
Occupation: Pediatric Speech Language Pathologist, contractor to Private Therapeutic Day School
Civic involvement: As a working mom, I have volunteered at school to the best of my ability by chaperoning field trips, serving hot lunches, co-hosting holiday parties, teaching a language tool to several classrooms, and volunteering for art day. I also try to participate in Feed My Starving Children a couple of times every year.
Q: Why are you running for this office, whether for reelection or election the first time? Is there a particular issue that motivates you, and if so, what is it?
A: A first time candidate, I am running because I believe that District 70 will benefit from a fresh perspective. I have children in elementary school and can empathize with what many families are experiencing. Whether I am scouring the internet to find materials to support my children with their hybrid learning or implementing the latest evidence-based practices in my speech and language therapy sessions, education consumes a tremendous part of my life. I run with the profound knowledge that every single decision I would make as a board member would directly impact my family, friends, all D70 staff and children, and the taxpayers in my community. I have 14 years of experience as a pediatric speech language pathologist. I collaborate with teachers, related-service providers, specialists, administrators, and parents. This position affords the opportunity to be inside classrooms and consult with classroom teachers. I have collaborated on hundreds of special education teams to advocate for students and their families in local K-12 schools.
I am the right candidate because I am solution-driven, creative, passionate, and a natural problem-solver. The opportunity to represent this incredible community as a board member is a natural fit for my knowledge, skills, and personality. The District 70 School Board position is my "calling." It found me.
Q: How would you grade the current school board on its response to the pandemic? Why?
A: I would give the current Board a D. The school year should have started as originally planned offering families a choice to learn remotely or in-person. Instead, a one-size-fits-all recommendation to pursue remote e-learning was made by the Superintendent and supported by a 5-2 Board vote. The current Board is comprised of individuals with older children who have no understanding of what the remote learning experience is like for elementary students and their families. The reality was and remains that remote learning is not equitable and simply does not work for many families. Many concerned members of our community have been lobbying the schools to open ever since. Communication, transparency, and accountability are areas in need of improvement. I would like to see a Board that opens its doors to all stakeholders by genuinely listening to its constituents. This means putting papers aside during public comments to establish eye contact at meetings. The community feels muted, and there is a division. I suggest an opportunity for a public forum to address the primary human desire to simply be heard. As a speech language pathologist, I know the pivotal role communication plays in building equitable solutions and connections between stakeholders. My goal is to unite and create a positive educational experience for all.
Q: How do you view your role in confronting the pandemic: provide leadership even if unpopular, give a voice to constituents -- even ones with whom you disagree, or defer to state authorities?
A: School Board membership is a local government duty. Every town, even every school, has its own culture and climate. Those factors need to be considered in the operation of schools. My role would be leadership that stems from my innate belief that the purpose of public schools is to serve and support children. I will use scientific data, my experience working in schools, a broad network of experts, and all stakeholders' input to guide my decision-making. We need to prioritize our children's cognitive, academic, physical, and social-emotional needs. Labeling this year as a "throwaway year" of public education, as flippantly proposed by the Board President at Monday's Board meeting, is not acceptable. In addition, I'd like to reinstate the art of listening, not only to like-minded individuals but to those with contrasting opinions. I believe there is always something to be learned from others. Let's open doors, really talk, and have candid discussions about collaboratively moving forward to best support our District 70 students.
Q: Did your district continue to adequately serve students during the disruptions caused by the pandemic? If so, please cite an example of how it successfully adjusted to continue providing services. If not, please cite a specific example of what could have been done better. (200 word limit)
A: As an educator immediately thrust into synchronous teaching in March 2020, I find the administration of District 70 inadequately planned and subsequently failed to service my elementary-aged children with the same caliber of education that existed prior to the pandemic. Apps/YouTube/Khan Academy links did not serve as suitable substitutes for a professional educator with training, expertise, and understanding. My children missed their teachers, and 40 minutes per week of synchronous instruction didn't come close to filling the void they felt in their hearts. Since Summer 2020, I have been weary of the practice of "flipped instruction" and the sedentary 6-hour remote learning day that my children endured from August through early November, as recommended by Superintendent Dr. Barbini and supported by the current Board President. We (Parents Delivering Leadership) initiated a movement on behalf of community members requesting a choice for full, in-person instruction in September 2020. The Board just recently voted to open for full(er) days in response to Dr. Barbini's January 2021 recommendation to remain in hybrid learning for the remainder of the year. Schools at the elementary level will open for full days in the middle of April, but there is no current projection date for middle school. April 12th will mark over a year since children have not had access to an entire day of face to face instruction with their beloved teachers.
Q: Do you have a plan on how to safely and effectively conduct classes in the spring? What have you learned from the fall semester that you would change in the spring?
A: I support the D70 families that choose to continue remote learning. I continue to assert that schools are safe places, with the proper mitigation efforts, in place for families opting for in-person learning (Source: Brown University's National COVID-19 School Response Dashboard).
Since the partial reopening, there has been no local school data indicating transmission on school grounds. Therefore, we can conclude the current mitigation plan is successful, and all schools can resume for full days in-person. Children were not intended to learn alone in their bedrooms. They need access to peers to learn and practice social skills that will carry them through adulthood. Similarly they need access to their teachers for proximal support and the opportunity to explore their environments using all five senses to absorb and retain new information. Like surrounding schools across Chicagoland, Libertyville schools should be open now full-time for all D70 students. Our District went on tours to St. Joseph, Oak Grove School, Arlington Heights, and Highland Park/Highwood schools, area schools modeling full(er) time, in person instruction. Libertyville's District 70 used to be such a model district. My goal is for District 70 to become a model district again.
Q: What is your position on allowing high school sports to continue during the pandemic? Be specific.
A: This is not a high school district. In terms of sports for younger children, I absolutely support that sports should be fully open for kids' social-emotional and physical well-being. Sports can be played safely with mitigation techniques, as recommended by doctors and other experts in public health.